Late summer finds us very busy at LEF. We want LEF to be a viable economic model. The economic backbone of our project is growing open-pollinated seeds. Such seeds grow plants that pollinate each other generation after generation, just like in nature. Open pollinated seeds are the counter-movement to the corporate control of food. At this point, about a dozen people have control over the entire industrial food production process, because they control the corporations that own the hybrid/ GMO seeds that now grow the vast majority of the food that humans eat. Such centralization of power is a bad omen for the future of democracy. People have asked us at times if we think organic farming with open-pollinated seeds could feed the world. An honest answer to that question is not easy to come by. Industrial agriculture is enormously productive (at a price), and we are utterly addicted to it.
This year at LEF we grew our biggest corn crop ever, a whopping half acre. We grew a corn called Florianni Red Flint, a beautiful corn that is clearly much closer to wild corn than the industrial stuff. In harvesting the corn by hand, ear by ear, you can see the variations and peculiarities that hearken back to the wild and diverse corns that grow in Mexico. You can also taste the difference. Florianni tastes much different than store-bought corn meal, with a much richer and interesting flavor. There are other open-pollinated corns that are more productive than Florianni. Our crop did well. (Though the deer enjoyed it too.) Seeing up close the productivity of organic, open pollinated seeds gives us hope that we can feed ourselves using sustainable methods.
We want to grow us much of our own food at LEF as we can manage. Preserving food without refrigeration has been coming together well. We can food in jars, as do many people. We have an Amish-made wood fired canner that is fantastic, and allows us to put away all of the tomato sauce we want, quickly and efficiently. Only acidic foods can be canned. Last year we tested our solar powered food drying system that re-directs heat from the heating system on the kitchen. This year we built more drying screens and we are are using that system full-tilt. The results are fantastic. With some of our seeds crops (tomatoes and peppers), we take the seed out AND eat the vegetable. We have been drying peppers, okra, eggplant, onions, sweet corn, squash, green beans, carrots, beets, and any kind of fruit we can get our hands on. This is a great way to store food. Dried foods often taste better and retain more nutrition than canned food because it has not been cooked. Once it is dried, it can sit for a long, long time without using energy (unlike refrigerated/frozen foods that consume energy in an ongoing fashion). Yum!
Our other big project these days is trying to finish our main house EarthHeart. That is coming along well. We conducted our strawbale workshops, and they went well. We put out a call for volunteers and we got a lot of help, including an enthusiastic, colorful crew called Grateful for Grace. We continue to be blessed with really sweet, idealistic and hard-working interns.
We packed all our walls with straw (and sweat). We use the cheapest, simplest kind of construction, which looks like the same 2 X 4 walls you would see in an ordinary house. The building inspectors like to see things with which they are familiar. Then we simply stack straw bales inside that wall, so the 4 inch wall becomes and 18 inch wall that insulates well. Our first layer of interior stucco is clay. Then we skim coat with sand/lime/cement stucco. The end result looks charmingly like a stone wall.